Museums in Dayton

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On October 5, 1905, years of invention and failure culminated into history as Wilbur Wright took to the sky in a craft that soared through the air for 24 miles. More than a century later, just a few miles from the field over which it first flew, the 1905 Wright Flyer III—now designated a National Historic Landmark—spreads its wings at Carillon Historical Park, inspiring visitors with its tale of innovation, persistence, and progress, and the aptly named "Wilbur Wright: A Life of Consequence" exhibit. Nearby, the park's Heritage Center features the year-round Carousel of Dayton Innovation, which contains 31 figures, a 38-foot hand-painted mural illustrating the turn of events in the Wright Brothers flying exhibits, and rides for $1.

As impressive as they are, the airplane and carousel are only a few of Carillon Historical Park’s myriad attractions. Named for the 151-foot-tall Deeds Carillon, whose 57 bells have been pealing since 1942, the campus spreads across 65 acres. Just south of downtown, 30 historical buildings, including the 28,000 sq.ft. Heritage Center of Dayton Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship, draw visitors into Dayton’s past and share in the park's devotion to history, heritage, and progress. Early settlement structures such as the Newcom Tavern—the oldest building still standing in Dayton—sit alongside other original buildings such as an 1815-era stone cottage. The park also includes replica buildings, such as the Deeds Barn and the Wright Cycle Shop, which recreate the birthplaces of the automobile self-starter and the airplane.

The park’s transportation theme continues with an 1835 B&O steam locomotive and an interactive 1/8 scale railroad available to ride on select days for an extra fee and whose train cars carry passengers more effectively than 1/8 scale feet would. Nearby, the first Chevy S-10 truck minted by GM’s Moraine Plant in 1988 mingles with a fleet of vintage and classic autos. After admiring their hulls, visitors can swing by Culp’s Café—named and modeled after the eatery where widow and mother of six Charlotte Gilbert Culp served pies in the '30s and '40s—and order burgers or soda-fountain creations off a '40s-style menu. Before leaving, guests can peruse Wright brothers paraphernalia and items from the park’s 1930s letterpress printing shop at the museum store or sign up for educational programming that teaches lost arts such as candle dipping and butter churning.

1000 Carillon Blvd
Dayton,
OH
US

Easy as A-B-C, the artists behind Life in Letters craft custom photographic gifts available both in their shop and online. Over the years, they've amassed a vast collection of black-and-white photos of common objects and sights that resemble letters—such as arches, golf balls, fences, and palm trees—which they assemble into meaningful words, such as love, laugh, family, and nihilism. Once customers have chosen their word and selected each letter, they can have their piece matted and framed to suit their own decor or that of a loved one. The photographers also share their skills with aspiring shutterbugs during regular introductory photography classes.

57 Chestnut St
Beavercreek,
OH
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Train hobbyist Don Oeters founded EnterTRAINment Junction in 2008 to showcase railroading in an educational and amusing way. Two years later, his 80,000-square-foot facility was voted Ohio's Best Family Entertainment Center of 2010.

At the centerpiece, a 25,000-square-foot indoor model train display dazzles visitors with 90 G-scale trains and 2 miles of track winding through handcrafted landscapes, including an 11-foot waterfall, thousands of trees, and scenes documenting railroad's early, middle, and modern periods. Each train car is the size of a loaf of bread, making it easier for groups to see it or break it into communal pieces, and Oeters and his staff continually tweak the locomotive's surroundings by adding seasonal touches and installing minor or major updates. Historical train artifacts, educational videos, and interactive exhibits await amblers in the railroad museum, and the Imagination Junction kids' area entertains youngsters with train-themed play structures, hand-cranked and electronic locomotive rides, and a section dedicated to Thomas the Tank Engine, the first train to successfully learn sign language.

7379 Squire Ct
West Chester,
OH
US

Red steel plates that seem to be taking flight, a warped obelisk, and a dome made of metal dragonflies—these are just a few of the 64 statues nestled among the gardens and meadows at Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park. In addition to delighting visitors with massive objects d’art, the 265-acre outdoor museum exhibits the naturally occurring beauty of wooded thickets, seven lakes, and flowers that have never undergone plastic surgery. After wandering along the hiking trails, driving along paved roads, and peering into the remains of a stone house built by pioneers, guests can visit the 10,000-square-foot Ancient Sculpture Museum. The museum showcases Roman, Egyptian, Greek, and Etruscan statuary, which was chiseled before mankind invented the frames that forced all art to become flat.

In addition to curating sculptures, the park hosts a slew of activities relating to art and the environment. Its Summer Concert Series beckons music lovers, and a Summer Series for Kids organizes programming such as puppet shows for little ones.

1763 Hamilton Cleves Rd
Hamilton,
OH
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The firefighters of Engine Company #45 Firehouse extinguished their last blaze in 1962 after 56 years of fearless public service. Although the team dissipated, the elegant, 1906 firehouse—with Renaissance Revival details and three doors wide enough to accommodate horse-drawn fire engines—remained, languishing as a city storehouse until 1980, when the Fire Museum of Greater Cincinnati moved in. The building was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and filled with special exhibits. It was also filled with antique firefighting gear that is in excellent condition in spite of years of smoke inhalation.

The collection reveals early 19th-century firefighting tactics with an alarm drum that once warned of fire from the roof of a carpenter shop and was later used to provide rhythm during disco infernos. In the Safe House exhibit, families diagram their homes and create personalized emergency plans while learning tips about fire prevention.

315 W Court St
Cincinnati,
OH
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The 1970s were a transformative time for the Cincinnati Reds. Over that decade, the Reds cast off the lingering shadows of controversy—the team's first NL Pennant and World Series title were overshadowed by the notorious "Black Sox" scandal—to become a dominant force in Major League Baseball. The Reds appeared in four Fall Classics during that stretch and won back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976—the latter of which forever etched "The Big Red Machine" into baseball lore. Today, the Reds continue to build on their rich history at Great American Ball Park. There, fans can gaze the outfield walls and soak in views of the Ohio River and the hills of Northern Kentucky where Mr. Redlegs buys all of his mustache wax.

100 Joe Nuxhall Way
Cincinnati,
OH
US